Old Building with a New Heart at NorthTec’s Future Trades

April 23, 2024
April 22, 2024

NorthTecheld a blessing Ceremony for its newly built Civil Engineering and Architecture Excellence Centre on Monday the 15th of April.

The building is the soon-to-be home of the Civil Engineering and Architecture tutors and students at Dyer Street, custom-designed to not only suit the needs of the students but also to work with and even highlight the original structure of the building.

The blessing ceremony was led by Matua Max Thompson, Kai Arahi Māori at NorthTec, and not only opened the building to its new purpose, but also bequeathed it a name in Te Reo Māori, Te Whare Tuatea.

“Named after the second basket of knowledge,” Matua Max explains. “Tuatea is the basket that brings together shapes, ideas, and designs into a collaborative space. It is a name that perfectly encapsulates everything we hope to achieve in this new space.”

The event was well attended with almost 50 participants, including NorthTec staff, contractors who worked on the project, the building owners, and Whangārei Mayor Vince Cocurullo, who was pleased with the new build and the increase in admission numbers it would provide.

“It’s important to keep education in the north,” says Mayor Cocurullo. “NorthTec provides training for northlanders by northlanders, and this new facility will allow more students access to important qualifications. There are several large infrastructure projects that will need to be completed in Northland over the next five to ten years and having highly trained local talent means we won’t have to be pulling people in from other parts of the country.”

“Having dedicated training facilities in the north also means our school leavers and those looking to retrain don’t need to go down to Auckland, Wellington, or Christchurch. They can study right here in Northland.”

NorthTec is focused on necessary environmentally friendly and recycled options in all aspects of operation. Including our facilities and building. That’s why, when they needed to develop the area at the Dyer Street based Future Trades Campus in Whangārei for the Civil Engineering and Architecture courses, it was decided that they would repurpose an older building, rather than build new.  

“The building was originally a loading bay,” explains Jeff O’Shea, NorthTec’s Property and Maintenance Manager. “Then it was used as a storage and warehouse area for our trade’s courses. When we debated repurposing the building, we found that the building had good bones, and simply needed to be re-outfitted to its new purpose.”

Jeff himself managed the new outfit, working with Wellsford-based Dobbyn Builders to re-clad and re-fit the building for its new purpose.

“The roof has been completely replaced,” says Jeff. “They did that in a day with large, fully insulated panels that are quick to install. The whole building was stripped back and redesigned. It’s a building with an old body but a new heart.”

The design created for the new space’s purpose worked with everything the building provided, designing around the original structure.

“There were some interesting challenges,” admits Bevan Morrison, manager at Dobbyn Builders and one of the project leads. “Because the building was originally a loading bay, the concrete floor has a 5% drop from front to back, for runoff and such. It’s over a large space, so it’s not noticeable to people in the building, but it did have to be considered when building. We couldn’t build our frames for the rooms off-site and then install them, as we needed to work around the difference to keep everything level, so most things had to be custom built on site.”

“It also meant some tweaking of the design plans for the architects, drains had to be installed on the downward slope, not upward, something that doesn’t need to be taken into account when you’re building with a level surface.”

The design for the new space not only worked around the original buildings' structure but also incorporated it into the design. Large steel trusses, an open-air walkway around the second-story space open to below, and visible ventilation hardware all make up elements of the industrial aesthetic throughout the space.

“Considering the fact that the building will be used for our Civil Engineering and Architecture students, the industrial style really suited the space,” says Jeff. “It’s an added feature to the already custom-designed classrooms and teaching spaces.”

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